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Read about the exhibit

This painting was chosen
78%
of the time over other paintings.

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Caption: Amr, Disguised as Mazmahil the Surgeon, Practices Quackery on the Sorcerers of Antali Folio from an illustrated Hamza-Nama series Northern India (Mughal school), 1557-1572 Opaque watercolor and gold on cloth and ink on paper Overall: 31 x 25 in. (78.7 x 63.5 cm) Brooklyn Museum. Caroline H. Polhemus Fund, 24.49

Label: When the Mughal emperors conquered northern India, they brought with them a taste for Persian aesthetics. Early in their reign, the Mughals brought Persian artists from Iran to teach painting techniques and styles to artists in India. The product of this bicultural painting workshop looks very different from both Persian and indigenous Indian painting, in part because the artists were looking at European art as well. This is a folio from the oversized manuscript known as the Qissa-i Amir Hamza, or Hamza-Nama, one of the most ambitious projects completed by the imperial painting workshop under the Mughal emperor Akbar (reigned 1556–1605). All of the paintings are on cloth, with Persian text written on paper glued to the reverse. It is thought that the pages were made for use in storytelling performances, where one person held up a painting for an audience while another read from the back of a different folio.

The Hamza-Nama is a magical adventure tale about the first generations of Muslims; the protagonist, Amir Hamza, is the uncle of the Prophet Muhammad. This painting is typical of the series, with multiple figures in expressive postures set within a sumptuously decorated courtyard. It illustrates one of the story\'s heroes, Amr, posing as a doctor to gain entrance to a community of sorcerers, then drugging them in order to free one of his comrades. The story implies that sorcerers’ powers are limited and corrupt because they can neither cure their own illnesses nor recognize quackery.

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